My own redemption song

People are not perfect. We are flawed by nature. It is inevitable that we will each eventually fail or make mistakes in life. Both the choices and mistakes we make in life can be large or small. If there is one thing I know it is this: redemption has its cost. The cost may be meager or may seem overwhelming.

I have made many mistakes, I have flaws, and I have certainly made poor choices in my 30 years on this Earth. I have been on my own personal path for redemption for nearly 7 years now. The path has sometimes been harder than words can describe. With all that I am, no matter how badly I want to sometimes just give up, I know with all that I am that it is worth it.

Whoever you are, wherever you come from, whatever you are going through… Never give up on yourself and what you are after.

What happened to our music?

A recent study served to confirm the depressingly obvious: song lyrics for the most popular genres of music (in America) are ridiculously stupid— and getting worse over time. Though this might not be a revelation, the figures are distressing indicators of both an intellectually barren society and cultural ignorance are becoming an apparent inevitability.

If you’ve already moved away from Billboard music, congratulations, you refuse to be insulted. But if you haven’t, or if you’re concerned about pop culture trends acting as portents of systemic dysfunction, you should probably pay attention. Andrew Powell-Morse of SeatSmart studied the “Lyric Intelligence” of 225 Billboard songs in the Pop, Country, Hip-hop, and Rock genres that spent three or more weeks parked at the top of the charts to analyze any changes over the course of ten years. And change there was.

Ten years ago, the most popular songs read between a third and fourth grade level, but the inanity has only increased with time, and after a five-year downward tumble ending in 2014 (the last year of the study), chart-topping hits had a reading level equivalent of only second or third grade.

Broken into genres, the levels measured just 2.6 for Hip-hop/R&B, a tie of 2.9 for Rock and Pop, and faring best was Country at 3.3 — though declaring a winner in this insipid race to the bottom seems somewhat defeatist. Even further to that point, the most intellectually stimulating song, Blake Shelton’s Country hit “All About Tonight”, measured just 5.8, while wading deeply into the ludicrous was Three Days Grace’s “The Good Life”, at a level equivalent to 0.8 — begging the question, did they have to try to craft lyrics a kindergartner could easily read?

So how did this happen and why is it getting even worse? For the sake of brevity, this is a systemic issue being reinforced across the board by pandemic anti-intellectualism. Some have argued there is no harm in a bit of mindless distraction, but this is incontrovertibly false. When just six corporations control 90% of the media, and 80% of radio stations have identical playlists, mindless content isn’t a choice — it’s a virtual mandate. In this self-propelled cycle of banality, the conglomerates dictate content to be promoted by radio, which in turn pushes it endlessly, creating a false perception that what is being played is due to listener demand. But this insidious marketing ploy is more akin to kidnapping and is every bit as dangerous.

There is a scarcity in music options over the airwaves, so when vacuous lyrics are foisted on listeners, they become captives under duress. It is scientifically proven that flexing the intellect can slow cognitive decline, but there has been a cultural shift away from stimulating thought in favor of homogenization and living for the moment, and empty radio content is both symptom and reinforcement of that trend.

Society is focused on entertainment, materialism, and self-promotion, and when coupled with a need for instant gratification, it’s really no wonder we’re in such a sorry state. Occasional forays into mindless distraction would be understandable and harmless if they were just forays, but the foundation is faulty due to a sharp decline in quality education at every level.

Education has become the highest form of indoctrination with teachers forced into regurgitating information so their students can pass tests rather than become innovators and original thinkers. And who could blame them? Currently, they’re held to the ridiculous system where their performance is ranked, and salary determined by how those students perform on standardized tests that are, themselves, flawed.

As Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, put it, “This country has spent billions on accountability, not on the improvement of teaching and learning at the classroom level.” An education system based almost solely on taking tests is not only intellectually dimming, it’s stressful — instructors doling out the tests are given a set of instructions for what to do when students vomit on their test booklets. All of this is designed to send students to college where the situation is perpetuated.

According to Catherine Liu, a film and media studies professor at the University of California, “We don’t educate people anymore. We train them to get jobs.”

indoctrination creates obedience. If music and culture focus on mindless diversion, and education lacks, well, education, then people lack the acuity necessary to question the absurdity of the system. Those who manage to liberate themselves from this mold and have the gumption to question official authority will find a cozy spot on the government’s watch list. So while we bemoan our country’s lack of intellectual prowess, it isn’t by a failure of design.

The author of aptly titled Idiot America, journalist Charles Pierce, thoroughly summed up the issue this way: “The rise of idiot America today represents–for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power–the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good.”

Unfortunately, if the lyrics study is a prognostic omen, the epidemic of idiocy will only get worse.

What The Future of Cars in America Could Be

With all of the global discussion involving climate change and clean energy, the gass-guzzlers of yester-year are quickly becoming a thing of the past and the American automotive enthusiast has been forced to adapt. It wasn’t until gas started to rise above $3 a gallon that we finally started noticing cars with alternative fuel, hybrid and plug-in electrics passing us at the pump here in the US. Be it for social, political or economic reasons, the automotive industry has recently created a variety of fabulous new cars with new capabilities to meet the new needs and concerns of the 21st Century driver.
The current trend in America for the past decade has been in hybrid technology. Just by saying ‘hybrid’ you probably already had one popular hybrid starting with a ‘P’ pop into your head almost instinctually. It is now that embedded and marketed in the automotive industry. With new government and EPA requirements on vehicles, the quest for a cleaner car has become a big priority for manufacturers both here and abroad.
The newest trend emerging within the industry is the plug-in-electric car. These are cars that require no fuel and run on the same principal as your cell phone. These are the kind of cars you used to only see in movies.
The idea of a plug-in-electric car is simple. You start with an electric motor that has only one moving part. You then equip the car however you like with as many creature comforts you like, because everything is electric and can run off of the motor and battery(ies). You then drive your car in your daily life. When you’re all out of juice, you just plug them in and for a few dollars of electricity, you have clean and efficient power ready to go again! The electric car is quiet, sophisticated, clean, and hopes to one day be cheap and efficient.
Yes, the electric car is here and it’s a very real option whether you’re interested in our environment or just enjoy owning something fancy and cutting edge. Gone soon may be the days of the thirsty SUVs and big V8s. Humanity is moving forward and the car enthusiast and the casual consumer alike are struggling to educate themselves in this fast paced period of divine automotive innovation.
This Renaissance in new cars with totally new powertrains can cause one’s head to spin trying to keep up with all of the new options. Plus the government tax credit given for buying an ecologically-friendly vehicle. Luckily, there is one company that has decided to come in as a new front-running contender in the American automotive industry over the past eight years and has tried to change the game. We found them in California, with Elon Musk, the father of Paypal, Space X, and several other entrepreneurial endeavors, is their CEO. To top-off the resume of high expectations, they decided to call themselves Tesla; what they do is, to put it simply, electric!
Tesla originally began it’s adventure in automotive with its debut roadster in 2007. Tesla continues to impress with what is now three beautiful body styles, slated to produce five body styles to choose from by 2018. Tesla has also begun putting fast charging stations throughout the US that will allow for a full charge in less than 30 minutes, being the only manufacturer in the electric game to have their own refueling stations. They have also announced and begun constructing battery swap stations where you simply unplug your flat battery and place it on a gharger while plugging in another with a full charge. Tesla is so confident in their designs and practices that they have released most of their patents and specifications and have made the information now openly available online in good faith.
Of course, all of this is well and good. We could praise Tesla all day but it is meaningless without defining how they are to drive. We traveled out to Columbus, Ohio to take the new Model S out for a spin to let you know. Our test model was the new all-wheel drive dual motor version.
From the moment you open the door you feel like you’re stepping into the future. The leather, which comes in white or black, is nice, but simple and tight. The dash is completely smooth, coming with carbon fiber or wood accents. Our test model came with the full-glass panoramic retractable roof, a $1,500 extra. A feature becoming more and more popular in luxury cars, and we loved it!
With all Tesla models, you get a slue of digital components and creature comforts. The luxory you enjoy includes standard things like air conditioning, power doors, locks, mirrors and more. You can also get 3 battery size and drivetrain options, upgraded roof (as we did) and advanced leather and audio systems. Perhaps the most interesting is feature we were teased with is the soon to be upgrade of auto pilot. We can’t wait for that one!
There is a very real energy you feel as you turn on the car. It’s awkward at first to experience. You expect this rumble or sound of some sort and there are neither. Everything just lights up and comes alive as if you were switching on your ipod before your morning jog. The software updates constantly on your Tesla each time you turn it on. Which is nice but problematic if you’re in a hurry and your car decides to update.
All of controls are on a giant tablet in the center where the console should be. It feels high-tech and means there are no buttons that will break, fall off or not turn correctly. You feel like you’re in a car James Bond would drive. By far, the most impressive thing about the Tesla line is the power. When you hit the petals, whether it be gas or brake, you feel it instantly. It tends to feel very heavy, in fact all Teslas are a bit hefty due to their immense battery packs.
Let’s then pause for a moment to talk about battery life, the Achilles heel of electric plug-in cars. Most hybrid or plug-in electric cars are limited to roughly 50-100 miles before their electric motors run out of juice. It isn’t so bad when all you have to do is find your nearest available plug-in spot, except for the fact most electric batteries need over 8 hours to fully recharge from being completely flat. This is extremely problematic for the average consumer as it makes long commutes, road trips and family vacations a bit of a dilemma. Once again, Tesla has thought of everything and this is the area that they are really pulling ahead of their competitors.
Powered on lithium batteries provided by Panasonic, the Tesla automotive line functions on the same principles of your common laptop to access it’s power. With those batteries comes an impressive driving range of about 270 miles, If you get the extended battery package. Unlike other electric plug-ins on the market, it comes impressively close to the same range as a vehicle with a gasoline engine.
With electric cars, power is measured in a different way and the conversion gets confusing to some. To simplify, the basic Tesla engine generates roughly 370hp, the standard Tesla motor generates about 420hp, and our model kicks out nearly 300hp in the front motor and over 470hp in the back! Translation: This thing is fast! It’s not just fast, it’s mind-blowingly fast. Zero to sixty is accomplished by the Model S just 3.1 seconds! That’s Ferrari territory.
Go ahead and take a moment to catch your breathe. (I know we needed to). Now, with all of this already accomplished, and with such an amazing line so far, Tesla looks toward the model 3 to debut this year. Boasting a consumer cost of only $35,000 before government incentive. This certainly should stir the market further and make the future of Tesla, and for the electric car, interesting now providing vehicles in every range hybrids and standard gasoline or flex-fuel engine vehicles do. A fact that could flat out eliminate the competition!
With all of the amazing things going on these days, it’s refreshing to see such innovation and passion back in the American automotive industry. An industry that seems to have lost a bit of it’s spark in recent decades. So as you browse the web on your next lunch break, type ‘Tesla’ into your search engine; If can, find a local dealership. You’ll be able to ask plenty of questions to a knowledgeable staff and maybe even take one out for a test drive. You’ll be glad you did! Unfortunately, Some states still don’t have a Tesla dealership but that didn’t stop us, and if you really want one, it doesn’t have to stop you either.
Tesla is sure to have something for everyone. With elegant styling and an aggressive compliment of luxury amenities, Tesla is good value as well. With the price tag on the new base model S starting just under $58,000, this puts the Tesla amongst elite German luxury vehicles Such as Mercedes and BMW. Which seems a fair comparison when you consider all of the creature comforts and technology you get. What makes the price even easier to swallow is that it’s only about $10,000 more than it’s fellow plug-in competitors. This sets Tesla as not only possibly the best car for your money but also the most elite of the electric cars you can put in your driveway today.

Stephen Colbert

There is one performer in the media who has emerged as perhaps one of the most interesting, influential, and unexpected icon for America. That one man is Stephen Colbert. He calls himself, “Basic cable’s second-favorite fake newsman,” but Stephen Colbert has become a part of the movement caused by his show and The Daily Show with John Stewart whereas people who watch his show are actually more informed about the world and national news than people who only watch the news. And now, he’s coming to Late Night. (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNvJZCFpdp8 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PzUt-TeR0tk)

Colbert delivers to us the news, as he sees it. Through his comedy he exploits flaws in political arguments, policy, and media coverage to raise awareness on key issues while providing us the relief of comedy while coping with the harsh realities of the truths in what he delivers. He has the luxury that John Stewart does not, Colbert is playing a character and not himself, the comedian. This gives him freedom that nobody else in news has on what he gets to say and how he gets to say it. (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7FTF4Oz4dI )

Stephen Colbert taught us about racism, income inequality, immigration political corruption and advocated for numerous issues, politicians and policy. All the while, we were laughing along with him. He also poses as a hyperbolic view of the GOP while leaning left in all his humor. Colbert matters because of how exposed he is. He has a hit show, Grammy Awards, Emmy Awards, best selling books, Peabody Awards and more. He speaks on TV and in congress and soon, he will take over for David Letterman once he retires. Colbert and his staff have seemed to have their finger on the pulse of the people. (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Di1LJbGEEtM )

People need to already understand the general concepts and topics current in society to understand the humor in what Colbert does as well as have historical and pop-culture knowledge to draw from. The viewers apply their own critical thinking and the writing staff of the show leads you on a narrative that channels your perspective and ideologies into what is the antithesis of his character—liberal. (link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6tiaooiIo0 and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6tiaooiIo0 )

Pour Me Another

Whew! What a flavor

as if my throat were on fire

my eyes begin to wander

my equilibrium falters

as I continue to indulge

I find myself at ease

no pain

no fear

only an orgy of opportunity

a world of what ifs waiting to be explored

as the night drags on

my demeanor becomes an issue

my brain has lost its filter

what most fear to express

I lay openly out on the table

all will be forgiven

after all it is not me, it’s the booze talking

GAMER

 

these skills elude me

despite my mighty grit I cannot wield them

how many hours

wasted

how much commitment and effort into something

without any sign of progress

is it jealousy

is it envy

is it vanity

or is it sheer dumb luck

either way

no matter

it is off to class with me

Why Infomercials Work

We’ve all seen those late night or early morning infomercials selling you something. Chances are, you might even own something from one. The question that this poses for me by this is, if we seemingly always complain about them, why are they so effective? Why do we still tune in despite our seeming lack of respect for them?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2PU8ZxQj7eE

Infomercials are all over our TVs, Youtube videos and more. They are used to sell products to the masses and are usually aired, as I said above, at what seems like odd times of the day. They create a need, an urgency, an understanding, they judge your decisions and rationale and they even give the viewer the concept of value and convenience. Is there more to the timing of the airing of infomercials than meets the eye? It would seem that they almost know when we’re looking for direction. They often sell you an illusion of exclusivity, yet by nature are public access and not exclusive at all. They try to not just sell you on a product but the identity that is unassumingly connected to it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH-LIXm2Ip0

Infomercials give the viewer something that they either want, or are led to think that they want based on pop culture beliefs and ideology. The media shapes how we think we should look, feel, act, and everything in between. Infomercials connect to the viewer by wowing the with the ease and convenience of ‘must-have’ items.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raUDOPD5LbQ_

The problem, if one exists, with infomercials is that they may bee too effective at shaping sub-cultures in society. They are effective due to presenting arguments that easily sway the audience through the heavy influence of emotional appeal. What do you think? Are infomercials a good thing or should we do away with them and just stick to regular commercials to sell things?

American Apathy

We live in a digital age. In this new frontier of communication we have been empowered with the ability to engage in public discourse instantly to decide outcomes in our social and public sphere. We tune in on our TV, radio, or portable electronic device and take part in honing the world around us. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about political activism, I’m talking about reality TV.

When we were given the power to use electronics to engage in the public sphere, we were also given the inherent responsibility to use it properly. Though we have access to more information than ever before, America’s public is considered one of the least informed in our nations history. Why is that? I believe the answer to be apathy. We are, as a people, seemingly more concerned with what is going on with Kanye and Kim than we are with climate change. We are more adamant about voting on American Idol than we are our politicians. Is this truly just a case of us being easily distracted my media? One could argue so, but there is still the undeniable culprit of apathy in America that is shaping it into what it is becoming.

We say as a nation that safety, education, and health are our top priorities. Though we have begun to finally make progress, look how long it has taken. Instead of writing letters to our congressmen and voting regularly, and speaking out in protest we sit at home and do nothing. For all our passions and all our vocal opinions we don’t seem to want it and believe it enough to take the simplest of steps to act on it. Then we have the audacity as a society to complain about how other people are taking control of our nation. We have a system in place here that allows anyone who tires hard enough to have a voice in shaping this nation. It is nobody’s fault but your own if your views and beliefs are not represented by this nation if you do not engage in the process.

However, when it comes to trivial entertainment, we are all too eager to get involved and make our voices heard in processes that, in the end, only shape our entertainment industry. The public sphere is a powerful entity that, if you use it correctly, can be used with digital media to be a catalyst for influence and change. I challenge and implore everyone to use this vital resource to engage in the public sphere. Go out and make life happen, don’t let it happen to you. We owe it to nobody but ourselves to go out into the world and participate in all aspects of the public sphere, not just the ones that are fun and without consequence. Who knows, maybe there is an activist or politician inside wanting to come out and make their voice heard!

A Digital Age

We are almost all now well into our digital age in America, how does this change us? The introduction of the internet, smart phones and social media has caused an evolution in communication not just in America but worldwide. The way we consume content, interact with the world around us and participate in global process had changed. As we officially pull away into the unknown of this new realm, we need to look at how electronic media has effected our lives.

First let us look at how we consume content when we were first introduced to electronic media versus how we consume it today. Let’s start with the arguable origins of the telephone and radio. People would congregate together and listen in as a group to listen to the shows, news, music and sounds produced on into the night. We would often literally stop what we were doing just to engage in the experience. Using a telephone was an elaborate and sometimes complicated experience (much like it still can be today).

As television and then the computer came along, the digital age truly began to emerge. Brought to people first by sight, then including sound, these mediums allowed for people to be more invested than ever before because, after all, seeing is believing! We have been flooded with content. So much so that sometimes it’s hard to tell if information is filtered at all. The internet in many ways has even broken through the limitations of the first amendment, causing much debate and turmoil. Can we even contain or restrict the internet at this point?

We now each hold in our hand a personal computer, camera, recording device, wi-fi signal, GPS, and telephone in our pockets everywhere we go. It is amazing! It is convenient! It is expensive! Perhaps more expensive than we realized until recently.

http://img.scoop.it/qjglD13VcpHHnfAkTRgd6Dl72eJkfbmt4t8yenImKBVvK0kTmF0xjctABnaLJIm9

https://captainepic337.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/b2672-devices.png

As we use digital media more and more it dilutes our interpersonal communication skills to an extent. Instead of being involved in the process, through our connection to everything we become disconnected. We lose sight of truth and value. We are so distracted in everything that though we are involved in everything, we are committed to nothing. As we cross into this digital age we need to make sure that in an effort to find ourselves and our place in the world that we do not, by mistake, become lost.